With soaring gas prices, real estate value dropping and jobs hard to come by, it’s clear the economy is going through hard times. Although only half of U.S. economists are forecasting recession, nearly all agree the United States will go through a period of protracted slow growth, which the current number of bankruptcy filings (up nearly 40% from last year) seems to support. Szabo Associates, Inc., recently released a newsletter advising businesses on better ways to deal with customers, particularly during these tough times, when every sale is important.

First, make sure customers understand your store policies from the beginning, thus creating many long-term benefits for all involved. For example, keep your return policies and other helpful information clearly displayed in your store. Highlight any “satisfaction guaranteed” policies, which may encourage sales. In addition, make sure all of your employees are well-versed in these policies, in case you are unavailable when a question arises. This should avoid any confusion and potential conflict.

As a storeowner in an increasingly competitive industry, keeping customers coming back for more is a priority. You (and all your employees) should know the products you are selling: ingredients, applications, alternatives, etc. While having knowledgeable sales people is crucial, the presentation of the information is equally important. Remain friendly and enthusiastic, without being an overbearing presence—you don’t want to scare your customers away!

By engaging your customers in conversation, you will be able to better relate to their situations, which will strengthen their bonds to your store, making their return much more likely. If they feel well cared-for, and know they will get a smile in addition to obtaining their natural product needs, shopping will be a more pleasurable experience. Chances are, the happier your customers are about shopping in your store, the happier and easier your job will be. WF
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2008